May 1, 2014
RUSTON, La. - With nine games remaining in the 2014 season and a winning streak to keep intact, Louisiana Tech is looking to continue its recent hot streak on the diamond, beginning with a three-game Conference USA series at Marshall this weekend.
LA Tech (14-27, 4-17 C-USA) enters this weekend's series having won four straight games, the longest winning streak this season, including a midweek victory over Northwestern State on the road this past Tuesday. The Bulldogs have out-scored their last four opponents by a score of 24-14 and are looking to keep the momentum going in this weekend's pivotal C-USA series at Marshall.
The Herd comes into the series looking to snap a four-game losing streak, as Marshall has an overall record of 18-24, including an 8-12 mark in Conference USA games.
"Marshall is a dangerous team," head coach Wade Simoneaux said. "They are 8-12 in the league and fighting to get into the tournament as well. I have heard they can really pitch and have some tough kids in the lineup. Their park in a tough place to play from what I hear, but we have to take it one game at a time at this point in the season."
The series begins with a 6 p.m. CT first pitch on Friday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va. Saturday's game will start at 4 p.m. CT, before Sunday's series finale is scheduled for a 10 a.m. CT first pitch.
A LOOK AT THE THUNDERING HERD
Marshall is a team, much like LA Tech, that is currently fighting for a spot in the Conference USA Baseball Tournament with just three weeks remaining in the season. With the top eight teams set to make the postseason tournament, the Thundering Herd is currently sitting at 10th place in the league standings. Although Marshall recently had a five-game winnings streak going into mid-April, the tide has turned as it is now a four-game losing streak that the Herd will carry coming into this weekend.
While LA Tech's first season as a member of Conference USA is almost in the books, the Bulldogs continue to battle the unknown when it comes to opponents. Marshall is the third league opponent this season Tech will play for the first time in program history. In fact, Louisiana Tech will face unknown opponents for the next two weeks as Charlotte is set to travel to Ruston next weekend for a three-game series. The Bulldogs have never faced the Thundering Herd on the baseball diamond in the history of both teams. In games against Florida Atlantic and Old Dominion, the other two teams that Tech had never faced before this season, the Bulldogs are 2-4 in those six contests.
At the plate
With nine games left to play, sophomore shortstop Taylor Love has been steady as the Bulldogs' leading hitter with a .325 batting average this season. Love leads the team in hits (49), doubles (11), runs (24) and on base percentage (.379). Tyler Ervine (.279 BA) leads the team with 23 runs batted in and home runs with five on the season. As a team, LA Tech is hitting .252 in 2014 with 54 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs.
Marshall enters the series with a .234 team batting average with 44 doubles, four triples and four home runs. The Thundering Herd is led by Cory Garrastazu, who enters the series with a .321 average, three doubles and six runs batted in. Marshall's leading home run hitter (2) and RBI leader (20) is TJ Diffenderfer.
On the mound
Louisiana Tech will send junior right-hander Austin Greer out to the mound for his fourth straight Friday night start and his eighth overall. Greer (1-0, 2.81 ERA) is third on the Bulldog pitching staff in ERA and has already struck out 18 batters in 25.2 innings. Richie Navari will move into Saturday's starting role with a 5-4 record on the season and a team-leading 1.80 ERA. Navari has started 10 games and thrown three complete games in 2014. Sunday's starter for the Bulldogs has yet to be decided.
Marshall's staff enters the series with a team earned run average of 3.90 in 42 games thus far. The Thundering Herd will start junior right-hander Matt Margaritonda (2-5, 3.92 ERA) in Friday's contest, while right-hander Michael Taylor (2-6, 2.66 ERA) will start on Saturday. Chase Boster (2-1, 2.53 ERA) will start in the series finale on Sunday for the Herd.
WITH THE CALL
Dave Nitz will call all the action for all three games, which can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on KNBB 97.7 FM. Subscribers can also access audio on LA Tech All-Access. Live stats will be available via GameTracker by accessing the link on the baseball schedule page on LATechSports.com.